Cellphones, Mobiles, Handys & Drivers. Grrrrr!
This prompted by something I read on Twitter this morning.
There is one thing that makes me see red. I mean, gets me steaming mad to the extent that I’ll mutter slightly more than “Gosh Darn It!” under my breath, and end up having to whistle until I calm down.
Drivers using the phone.
It’s one of those things that just lights my blue touch paper, because of its shear scale of selfishness. It’s estimated that a staggering 1 in every 40 car drivers you see in the UK will be on the phone. For vans & commercial vehicles, that figure rises to 1 in 30.
It’s illegal, but that doesn’t seem to bother anyone any more - just look at RoSPA’s stats on usage and usage with hands-free kits. It’s just another one of those laws that don’t really apply - much like obeying the speed limit. I mean, as we all know, cyclists who don’t stop at red lights should be strung up, but any attempt to enforce speed limits is just a tax on drivers.
Here’s why I don’t like drivers on the phone:
- Drivers on the phone are as bad as drunks. No, really. Even using a hands-free device, your driving skills take a real dive when you’re on the phone. We view drink drivers as social pariahs, yet everyone just seems to accept that it’s OK to be on the phone
- In fact, in both cases you’re four times more likely to crash if you’re on the phone than without
- The biggest fear is called Inattention Blindness. Basically, you look at the road ahead, but as your brain’s engaged in something else, you don’t actually see it. Sometimes you can stay distracted right up to the point of impact. BANG!
- I ride a bike, so I’m not surrounded by a ton or so of armour plating, padding, air-bags and crumple zones. If I get rear-ended by a car doing 50mph (80km/h), it’s the equivalent of a fall from the 9th story. That’s Goodnight Vienna for sure, even with a helmet. But I still wouldn’t like to bet on my chances if the car’s doing just 30mph (50km/h), which is ‘only’ the equivalent of falling from a third-floor window.
I’ve tried photographing and filming drivers on the phone. But when their numbers are so great, I felt like the one on the lunatic fringe. I’ve caught & pulled up beside them at junctions to ask them politely to stop. I’ve shouted and ranted, blocked them from pulling out, and waved to try & get their attention. Sometimes when I’ve waved, I’ve even used more than just one finger too.
But no matter what I do, I feel powerless in the face of the numbers involved.
Here’s what I’d like to happen. I’d like the police to take this issue as seriously as they do drink driving. In the run-up to Christmas, there’s always a TV campaign on this - along the lines of:
Don’t do it ‘cos you’ll crash & kill your mates, and then we’ll lock you up and throw away the key. And if you don’t crash, we’ll catch you anyway, and then you’ll loose your license, your job and your home.
I’d like to see Mike Craik, the Chief Constable for Northumbria Police on TV, announcing that it’s officially Open Season on drivers on the phone. If you’re doing it they will catch you and throw the book at you.
And then pay bounty fees to the ticketing officers.